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Survey Says: College Necessary, Costs Evil

College: what do people really think of it these days? According to a survey conducted by Public Agenda and the National Center for Public Policy and Higher Education, it's a tricky situation. While most people seem to acknowledge that a higher education is vital to a good future, the current economy has made the actual act of getting that education a severe point of contention.

More than half of Americans believe that it's impossible to succeed without a college education, but an even larger number say that rising college costs are shutting out many students, a national survey has found.

As the nation's economic crisis deepened last year, frustration over tuition costs went up, with 67 percent of adults saying that many qualified students don't have the chance to attend college, according to the survey called "Squeeze Play 2009" that gauges public perceptions about higher education. By comparison, 62 percent of adults felt that way in 2007, and just 57 percent did in 2003...

"College is simultaneously being perceived as more essential than ever, but also less available than ever," said John Immerwahr, a researcher at Public Agenda, which conducted a telephone survey of 1,009 adults nationwide over five days in December.

The survey also noted that a large amount of people are disgruntled at the state of financial aid and student loans, and the amount people end up having to rely on them for an education.

Colleges are asking parents and students to think less about the price and more about the importance and quality of the education they will be receiving. According to enrollment services provost Joanne Graziano, "We tell parents ... don't focus so much on the sticker price, you can still qualify for types of aid that will reduce that sticker price to a net cost that is manageable." But the problem seems to be more deep-rooted, stemming not so much from the sticker price alone as what the price entails. The answer seems to be not in accepting the price as a necessity, but looking for solutions to reduce the costs without curbing the substance and quality of the education itself.

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